Uganda took a great leap forward Thursday by unveiling the ICT Innovations Support Programme Selection Committee – a panel of experienced ICT experts and educationists to identify and support youthful innovators in the country with the Shs 13bn innovation fund.
For many years, enterprising ICT innovators had complained of being neglected by government despite demonstrating ability to create jobs and address societal problems.
Frustrated, many ICT Hubs in Kampala had decided to seek financial and technical support from advanced countries in Europe and North America.
But this unpleasant situation could be coming to an end with ICT and National Guidance Minister Frank Tumwebaze rolling out a panel of experts to assess and select innovation concepts to receive financial support and entrepreneurial guidance.
“The innovations must demonstrate ability to solve an existing problem,” said Tumwebaze as he oversaw the inauguration of the committee.
While Ugandan tech geeks have since innovated thousands of systems, many have been found to be unmarketable.
Tumwebaze insisted that the innovations earmarked for financial support must have “market” and should have ability to “tap into opportunities” within the region.
President Museveni has since encouraged innovation and harnessing of talent which are essential for Uganda’s future economic growth.
Research shows that one fifth of all economic growth in the EU during the period of 1995 to 2010 can be attributed to ICT investments.
According to the Ministerial Policy Statement for FY 2014/15, the ICT sector share of Uganda stood at 6.0 percent of National GDP and employs over one million people.
Tumwebaze said the committee composed of ICT experts from government, academia and private sector will be “assessing innovation concepts seeking government support.”
Dr. Dorothy Okello of Makerere University will serve as acting chairperson of the committee.
Others members are Dr Benedict Oyo (Gulu University), Dr. Anabella Habinka Ejiri (Mbarara University), Mr Peter Kahiigi (NITA-U), Ms Nuriat Nambongo (Camtech), Mr John Musinguzi (ICT advisor to the President), Ms Hellen Kyeyune (UCC), Prof. Waswa Balunywa (MUBS) and Ms Lillian Aber (National Youth Chairperson).
ChimpReports understands the committee working with the ministry of ICT will also set up clear and transparent criteria to guide the selection of best qualifying innovation projects to support.
Museveni recently directed that the Ministry of ICT in a cost effective approach should work with UPDF Engineering Brigade to put up buildings at the available pieces of land in Nakawa and Entebbe and equip them with internet and computers for ICT innovators.
Tumwebaze said the ground-breaking ceremony for the structure will take place in October after which the UPDF Engineering Brigade will be expected to commence works.
The structure, expected to house 300-400 people, should be complete in six months.
“We are glad that we’ll soon launch a centre of ICT knowledge for the first time,” said Tumwebaze at the brief ceremony, adding, “Money follows ideas.”
He said ICT is another sector for job creation hence the need to invest in research and innovation.
Private ICT Hubs will be encouraged to take space at the new buildings.
Tumwebaze said government has expressed willingness to “procure local solutions innovated by Ugandans here.”
The ICT Permanent Secretary Vincent Bagiire described the committee as a “formidable team” which has served in many capacities in the innovation world.
“They understand the ecosystem, having worked with innovators for a very long time,” he observed.
The ICT Ministry is expected to announce entries for ICT Innovations to receive government funding.